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Webmaster Tools ArticleWebmaster Tools

The purpose of this article is to show you how to use Google’s Webmaster Tools to monitor errors within your site and to give you a better understanding of how people are connecting with it.

Sections in this article



Introduction

The information supplied in Webmaster tools can be used to fix important crawl errors, see who is linking to you and also look out for how many people are recommending your pages through Google’s +1 social metric. After reading this article, your site should be error free, you be able to spot keyword trends and you’ll know if people love your site or not.

Accessing Webmaster Tools

If you already have Webmaster Tools installed then you can access it from the My Account link in the top right-hand corner of the page in Google Analytics. If you need to sign up for a new Webmaster tools account then follow the steps below.

  • Ensure that you have a Google account setup.
  • Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/.
  • Click on the Sign in to Webmaster Tools button.
  • On the next screen, sign into webmaster tools with your Google Account details.
  • Webmaster Tools will now be added to your Google account.

Right, now that you are logged into Google Analytics and have webmaster tools setup, let’s continue…

Uploading an XML sitemap

Once you have logged into Webmaster tools, one of the first things you’ll want to do is to upload your XML sitemap.

To upload an XML sitemap, follow the steps below.

  • Click on Site configuration in the left-hand menu and click the Sitemaps option.
  • Click on the Submit a Sitemap button and type in the name of your sitemap.
  • To make things simple, always keep your sitemap in the root directory of your website and name it sitemap.xml.
  • Once you have typed the name of your sitemap in, click on the Submit Sitemap button.
  • Your sitemap will now be added to the list.
  • If you have an RSS feed and all the links go to internal pages, then add this in here to. Google will be aware of all your latest pages every time it comes back to look at your sitemaps.

Displaying crawl errors & Html suggestions

The next thing you’ll want to do in Webmaster Tools is to take a look at all the crawl errors that are present on your website. When you first log in you will see a quick summary of all the sites in your account, click the site that you would like to look at.

The next screen you are presented with is the dashboard, to start looking for crawl errors, follow the steps below.

  • On the right-hand-side of the page you will see a Crawl errors section. Click on the More >> link.
  • On this screen you will now be able to see various issues that were discovered and the date that they were found.
  • All you have to now is go through them one by one and eradicate the errors. I tend to start off with all the 404 page not found errors first then move on the rest.
  • Some of the other errors on your website can be down to query strings at the end of the URL. To get rid of these you would have to implement a canonical tag on your pages or delete any unnecessary query strings and UTM codes from your page.

To see all the HTML suggestions, follow the steps below.

  • In the left-hand menu, click Diagnostics then scroll down to HTML suggestions and click it.
  • From here you’ll be able to see things like:
    • Duplicate meta descriptions
    • Short & long meta descriptions
    • Missing and duplicate title tags
  • These errors should not really be on your site so remove all these as soon as you can as these errors are just sloppiness at the end of the day.

Links from external sites to yours

A big part in page rankings is from the pages that link to you. To see all the pages that Google has picked up that are providing a link to your site, follow the steps below.

  • In the left-hand menu, click on Your site on the web then Links to your site.
  • Where it says, who links the most, click on the More>> link.
  • You will now be able to see all the sites linking to you and how many links you have from them in total and from how many pages.
  • The ideal scenario here would be to have as many different sites listed as possible with links from as many pages as possible.

The total number of links field mentioned above can be a little misleading as if a website put a link to you in the footer of their website, that could equate to 500 additional links if the site had 500 pages. This is still only classed as one root domain link though.

To see the anchor text used in the links back to your site then follow the steps below.

  • Go back to the Links to your site section.
  • Where it says, How your data is linked, click on the More>> link.
  • You’ll now be able to see all the anchor text used.

Sometimes the anchor text used will be doing nothing for your back linking strategy, if this is the case and you have access to those sites, log into them and update your links. If you don’t own the sites, you can also try and contact the website owner an see if they can update it for you.

Show search queries, impressions and clicks

A really useful tool in Webmaster Tools are the Search queries. These show you how many impressions your keyword has had in Google searches, the position it appeared in and the number of clicks that it has had. To access Search queries, follow the steps below.

  • In the Your site on the web section click on Search queries.
  • The most popular keywords, based on impressions will be shown with their percentage increase. These figures are based on daily averages.
  • If you monitor this data once a week, you’ll be able to spot when certain keywords start trending. You can only go back 1 month with these stats so it may be of use to keep a spreadsheet or database of these top 10-20 keywords in by week.
  • By analysing keyword popularity from a previous year, you will be able to see seasonal trends that will in turn tell you what pages you need to be pushing and working on.
  • If the %age increase of impressions has shot up by 200% but your page is in 10th position, now would be a good time to start promoting it and getting it climbing up the rankings to capitalise on more click throughs.

Webmaster Tools Search Queries

 

Google+1 Metrics

You’ve all probably seen websites showing a +1 button recently. This is Google’s way of getting people to promote pages that they think are useful. It’s wide open to abuse if you ask me but that is a topic for another day. Anyway, the more +1 likes a page has the more relevant it should be. I’m not sure if it is the case at the moment but Google +1 information could be a ranking factor for pages in the very near future. So, if you don’t have a Google +a button on your site, now could be a good time.  So, to see if your site has been +1d by anyone, follow the steps below.

  • Click on +1 Metrics on the left-hand menu.
  • When you first implement the button you won’t get much information from Search impact but the two useful sections here are below.
  • Activity - To see how many people have +1d your site from within your website’s pages and from Google’s search engine where you were listed. This will over time start to show you pages that people liked the most.
  • Audience - To see how many users have +1d your website. From here you can see the number of users that have liked your site in total over the past 5 months. Now this is a running total so it will go up and down over the course of a week or so.

Once your site has gained enough +1 votes, you’ll start to see useful demographic data like age location and gender. This could help you determine who your website’s audience really is and who you though it was.

 

Site performance

If you want to see the average load time of your pages for the past 6 months then this can also be done from within Webmaster tools. Follow the steps below to find out how.

  • Click on the Labs option in the left-hand menu.
  • Click on the Site performance link.
  • You will now be shown a graph giving you the average time for pages to load.
  • Google recommend that a site should load within 2 seconds. This is possible if you have nothing but text and a few images on there!
  • I would say go for around 2-3 seconds after your website’s assets have been cached. This will give you the opportunity to put some social media buttons on your site and any useful JQuery that increases usability.

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